Now it is up to Minaya and Manuel

Flushing, NY – Clearly New York Mets general manager Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel have a major task ahead.  At least one more year they have to turn around the “totally unaccepted” season of 2009 as was explained Monday by Mets CEO Jeff Wilpon.

So when the players cleaned out their lockers and said goodbye Sunday afternoon, many not knowing their status for next season, we are led to believe by Wilpon that changes were already in the works the past few months.  Now the process of trades or free agency awaits all Mets fans in what could be a slow process to rebuild.

Upgrading at the plate, a power hitter at first base, a  good number two starter behind Johan Santana. Just the many tasks ahead for Minaya who knows, as well as Manuel, that one more year will be had at Citi Field if the mess of 2009 becomes a continuance in 2010.

Already gone from the clubhouse Sunday after the last pitch was Gary Sheffield. No presence of Carlos Delgado who packed his bags weeks ago and was home in Puerto Rico. Jose Reyes was preparing for surgery to that bad hamstring that put him on the disabled list on May 26th.  And you heard from Minaya, and from Wilpon on Monday that if the right move had to be made a Reyes, even Carlos Beltran could be traded.

Mets fans want to hear that the injuries were not the sole reason for the dismal events of a season that saw a finish of 70-92. Even a season ending sweep of the Houston Astros will not leave any form of optimism for the fans who continued to come to Citi Field, over 3 million, and for every reason the novelty of a new ballpark is over so Minaya has to produce.

The ownership made that known, realizing his fans have to see a better product on the field.  So when Nelson Figueroa pitched that complete game four-hit shutout Sunday to close the season, the second for a Mets pitcher this season, there was a mood in that clubhouse that 2010 can be better.

If only their star players had stayed healthy. “Tough year for us,” said Carlos Beltran as he exchanged phone numbers with catcher Omir Santos, “We didn’t expect this coming out of spring training,” he said referring to the influx of injuries that also put him on the disabled list on June 22nd with a bruised right knee.

Beltran would return in September, It had no impact because the season was lost which sparred, Mets fans from seeing a third straight September collapse. Figueroa who may or may have not pitched his way on the pitching staff next season said, “A lot of us were playing for jobs next year. I feel like I’ve earned a spot to be a major leaguer somewhere next year.”

But that may not be the direction that Minaya will take, even if the 33-year old Figueroa pitched the game of his career and wanted to make a statement. Wilpon says spending money again will not be an issue, and his Mets may once again have the highest payroll in the National League.

The free agent pool will not be the best. So trades may become a vehicle for Minaya. And don’t be surprised if one of the so-called “Core Players” that being Beltran or Reyes changes uniform if the proper deal is put on the table. The uncertainty of where they will be when spring training commences in February was definitely evident after that last pitch was thrown on Sunday.

Guys like Wilson Valdez knew it was last day in New York. And so goes for Anderson Hernandez, two of the infielders who tried to fill the void for Reyes in the infield. “It was good coming back here and I hope so,” said Anderson when asked about plans for next season.

Reyes is the catalyst as Minaya and Manuel know   With a healthy Reyes, the Mets can build around the core with Beltran, David Wright and their new addition in Jeff Francoeur. Angel Pagan showed some consistency at the plate but surly is a better option coming off the bench.

“I think I proved that I can play here and can come back and help this team, commented Pagan who finished fourth in the National League with 13 triples, and proving that Citi Field is a perfect place for hitting the triple. He was one of those Mets that persevered after a stint on the disabled list. “Turning the page and forgetting about it,” added Pagan about the season.

The Mets would finish a fraction of a point second to the Dodgers as the top hitting team in the National League. Their pitching staff issued the second most walks in baseball.  Blame the injuries, or the failure to run the bases properly, even the failure to drive in runs.

It was an entire season collapse instead of another disappointing end in September. And as they left their clubhouse the final time Sunday there was that attitude of failure, knowing that changes would be made. The coaching staff moves made Monday was not what Mets fans wanted to hear.

A long process it will be and Mets fans will have to be patient. They don’t want to hear that Mets players spent more than 1,480 days on the disabled list, eight former all-stars. They don’t want to hear Manuel say as he did Sunday, “For the most part it was a failure,”

Now it up to the manager and more importantly the general manager, to make sure the next season is not a failure. If not Minaya and Manuel are gone and probably a lot of fans will follow them out the door.

e-mail Rich Mancuso: [email protected]

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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